As a runner it is important to know how to properly fuel your body in order to perform at optimal level. Good nutrition–both before a race and during–is critical if you wish to excel in running. Here we outline 15 staple items (7 in this post and 8 in the part 2 of this post) that you should try to incorporate into your diet (even if you are not a runner!). What additional foods (that are not listed) do you eat as a runner? do you have any good recipes that incorporate any of the below items?
Almonds are an excellent source of vitamin E, an antioxidant that many runners fall short on because there are so few good food sources of it. Studies have shown that eating nuts several times per week lowers circulating cholesterol levels (in particular the bad LDL type) and decreases risk for heart disease. And the form of vitamin E found in nuts, called gamma-tocopherol (a form not typically found in supplements), may also help protect against cancer.
Try: almonds on salad, pasta, oatmeal. combine it with dried fruit, chocolate, etc. to make a trail mix. Try Almond butter in oatmeal, banana, toast, etc.
One egg fulfills about 10 percent of your daily protein needs. Egg protein is the most complete food protein short of human breast milk, which means the protein in eggs contains all the crucial amino acids your hard-working muscles need to promote recovery. Eat just one of these nutritional powerhouses and you’ll also get about 30 percent of the Daily Value (DV) for vitamin K, which is vital for healthy bones. And eggs contain choline, a brain nutrient that aids memory, and leutin, a pigment needed for healthy eyes. Choose omega-3 enhanced eggs and you can also increase your intake of healthy fats.
Try: boiled, scrambled, poached, or fried. Use them as the base for skillet meals such as frittatas. Include them in sandwiches, burritos, or wraps as you would meat fillers. Add egg whites to your morning bowl of oats! it makes the oatmeal so creamy!
Just a single 100-calorie sweet potato supplies over 250 percent of the DV for vitamin A in the form of beta-carotene, the powerful antioxidant. Sweet potatoes are also a good source of vitamin C, potassium, iron, and the two trace minerals manganese and copper. These minerals are crucial for healthy muscle function. ies.
Try: baked, boiled, or microwaved. You can fill them with bean chili, low-fat cheese, and your favorite toppings, or you can incorporate them into stews and soups. Baked as wedges or disks, sweet potatoes make delicious oven fries. WARNING: Don’t store sweet potatoes in the fridge because they will lose their flavor!! Instead, stash them in a cool, dark place, and they should keep for about two weeks.
Whole Grain Cereal with Protein
Look for whole-grain cereal that offer at least 5 grams of fiber and at least 8 grams of protein. For example, one cup of
Kashi GoLean cereal provides you with 10 grams of fiber (that’s 40 percent of the DV) and is loaded with heart-healthy phytonutrients, and contains 13 grams of protein per serving. If you pour on a cup of milk or soymilk, you’ll get 30 to 40 percent of your protein needs as a runner in one bowl. Other high-protein/high-fiber cereals include Nature’s Path Optimum Rebound and Back to Nature Flax & Fiber Crunch. Of course whole-grain cereal is excellent for breakfast–a meal you don’t want to skip since research indicates that those who eat breakfast are healthier, trimmer, and can manage their weight better than nonbreakfast eaters. Cereal also makes a great postrun recovery meal with its mix of carbohydrates and protein. Or you can sprinkle whole-grain cereal on top of your yogurt, use it to add crunch to casseroles, or tote it along in a zip bag.
Eat enough oranges and you may experience less muscle soreness after hard workouts such as downhill running. Why? Oranges supply over 100 percent of the DV for the antioxidant vitamin C which is thought to help alleviate muscle soreness. This fruit’s antioxidant powers also come from the compound herperidin found in the thin orange-colored layer of the fruit’s skin (the zest). Herperidin has been shown to help lower cholesterol levels and high blood pressure as well.
Add to your diet: Add orange fruit and green salads. Use the orange juice and pulp for sauces to top chicken, pork, or fish. And to benefit from the antioxidant herperidin, use the orange zest in baking and cooking
Canned Black Beans
One cup of black beans provides 30 percent of the DV for protein, almost 60 percent of the DV for fiber, and 60 percent of the DV for folate, a B vitamin that plays a key role in heart health and circulation. Black beans also contain antioxidants, and researchers theorize that this fiber-folate-antioxidant trio is why a daily serving of beans appears to lower cholesterol levels and heart-disease risk. In addition, black beans and other legumes are low glycemic index (GI) foods, meaning the carbohydrate in them is released slowly into the body. Low GI foods can help control blood sugar levels and may enhance performance because of their steady release of energy.
Add to your diet: For a quick, hearty soup, open a can of black beans and pour into chicken or vegetable stock along with frozen mixed veggies and your favorite seasonings. Mash beans with salsa for an instant dip for cut veggies, or spread onto a whole-wheat tortilla for a great recovery meal. Add beans to cooked pasta or rice for extra fiber and protein.
Mixed Salad Greens
There are tons of varieties of mixed salad green- each offers a unique blend of phytonutrients that research suggests may fend off age-related diseases, such as Alzheimer’s, cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. These phytonutrients also act as antioxidants, warding off muscle damage brought on by tough workouts. You can usually buy mixed greens in bulk or prewashed in bags.
Add to your diet: Toss a mixed greens salad with tomato, cucumber, scallions, and an olive oil-based dressing (the fat from the oil helps your body absorb the phytonutrients). You can also stuff mixed greens in your sandwiches, wraps, and tacos. Or place them in a heated skillet, toss lightly until wilted, and use as a bed for grilled salmon, chicken, or lean meat. Greens store best in a salad spinner or the crisper drawer in your fridge for up to six days. Just don’t drench them in water or they won’t keep as long.
Nutrition-wise, salmon is the king of fish. Besides being an excellent source of high-quality protein (you get about 30 grams in a four-ounce serving), salmon is one of the best food sources of omega-3 fats. These essential fats help balance the body’s inflammation response, a bodily function that when disturbed appears to be linked to many diseases including asthma. A recent study showed that people with exercise-induced asthma saw an improvement in symptoms after three weeks of eating more fish oil. If you’ve been limiting seafood due to possible mercury or PCB contamination, simply aim for a variety of farm-raised and wild salmon for maximum health benefits.
Add to your diet: Bake, grill, or poach salmon with fresh herbs and citrus zest. Gauge cooking time by allotting 10 minutes for every inch of fish (steaks or fillets). Salmon should flake when done. Precooked (leftover) or canned salmon is great in salads, tossed into pasta, stirred into soups, or on top of pizza. Fresh fish keeps one to two days in the fridge, or you can freeze it in a tightly sealed container for about four to five months.